How to Overcome Procrastination – Three Magical Words

By Jim Riviello

Many people procrastinate.

It’s easy to delay an important task. Some people postpone an important task to the very last moment—and others end up never doing it at all.

Intellectually, we know the task is important and we need to act on it but for whatever reason, we convince ourselves that we’ll get to it tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes and we say the exact same thing.

It’s convenient to rationalize, justify, and explain away our inability to achieve certain goals by simply believing we have too much to do or lack the willpower to take action. This seems way too easy.

  • Are you stressed out by the volume of tasks on your to-do list?
  • Do you spend an enormous amount of time and energy worrying about all the detail that the sheer quantity of analysis prevents any concrete actions or movement forward?

Let’s change that!

I want to share ONE simple question that has the power to change everything. It’s a technique I learned from Derek Doepker in his book, The Healthy Habit Revolution.

This ONE question will break the chains of procrastination.

This ONE question will activate immediate action.

This ONE question contains three magical words: “Can I just _____?”

Seriously, practice using these magical words and inserting an action so easy that you’re guaranteed to be able to do it even if you have barely any willpower at all.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Everyone experiences stress in their career, but the types of stress experienced by paramedics, firefighters, and other EMS professionals is physically and emotionally demanding. Emergency first responders have a high potential for serious injury on the job. They also work long shifts, many from 12 to 24 hours long, and have a front-row seat to traumatic events and life-and-death situations. As a result, many EMS professionals experience burnout, which can lead to low job performance, physical and mental health problems, and PTSD.

Self-care is a critical element of leadership yet often is prioritized last.

If we want to perform at our best, we have to stop viewing self-care as a personal indulgence that takes us away from work and instead, start considering self-care as a way to refuel our energy for more productive work.

QMC’s very own Chuck Humphrey recently wrote a great blog post, Because of You, where he encouraged first responders to pause for reflection and recognition. I encourage all EMS personal to take Chuck’s advice and practice asking themselves: Can I just take a minute and breathe both physically and mentally!

Let’s unpack this further.

Let’s say you don’t feel like going for an hour-long workout. Ask yourself: Can I just go for 20 minutes?

When you get to the gym, ask yourself:

  • Can I just do one more exercise?
  • Can I just do one more rep?

Maybe you have a really busy week and you find yourself stressed out by the number of things you need to accomplish. Try asking yourself:

  • Can I just dedicate 15 minutes to plan my week?
  • Can I just do this one task?

Here’s one I used recently: Can I just write one sentence for my next blog post and make it better later? Guess what, it worked! 😉

Most people spend endless hours trying to motivate themselves and they struggle.

My advice: Stop!

Focus on gaining momentum!

Momentum creates motivation. You have to get in the habit of doing something, regardless of how small that something is. Successful people ACT because they know action changes things!

How To Overcome Procrastination – Three Magical Words

When I’m thinking about the 43 things I have to do on my task list, I naturally put things off. I have learned instead to ask: “Can I just do the next thing on my list?”

Everything becomes a lot easier once you get started and most people, like myself, usually want to keep going once momentum is established.

Three magical words: “Can I just _____?”

Use this phrase to free yourself from that awful feeling of overwhelm and take one small step forward.

Let’s practice.

I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to whisper the words: Can I just ____?

Ask yourself: Can I just send Jim an email to this one question? 😉

Trust me, this will help you practice.

Here’s the question: What is the #1 challenge you have in trying to make meaningful progress with a goal, project, or task?

Can you just send me a quick email?

Hopefully, this is not a big ask but it’s an important one. Why? Because it’s so simple.

The best way to support a new habit is to practice it. I want you to experience how simple what I am suggesting is. I’ve done this in my leadership workshops and everyone has told me it helped them reinforce the habit.

Now, it’s your turn to practice: Send a quick email to and answer the question: What is the #1 challenge you have in trying to make meaningful progress with a goal, project, or task?

Three magical words: “Can I just _____?”

If you want to have more, work on the habits that help you become more.

Jim RivielloAbout the Author

Jim Riviello is the founder of Leadership X University (LXU) and international bestselling author of There Must Be a Better Way and Freedom to Experiment. Jim is a highly sought after expert on transformational change, business innovation and leadership development. He works with entrepreneurs and senior executives to develop leadership growth champions who embrace change, focus their team’s efforts, and accelerate results.

Jim has spearheaded enterprise sales organizations, facilitated rapid growth as a C-level executive, and been a management consultant to Fortune 1000 companies. He has also launched and managed several successful startup organizations, nurturing them into profitable venues.

Jim has a passion for the pursuit of excellence, enormous energy, and the ability to energize others. He publishes a weekly leadership blog, podcast, and YouTube channel. To access a wealth of leadership tools and resources, please visit or contact Jim directly if you would like to schedule an exploratory discussion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Name *